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How I click the shutter: My 1st year with PNoy

By NEWSBREAK CONTRIBUTOR

Text and Photos by: Gil Nartea
Exclusive to Newsbreak

MANILA, Philippines—I never dreamt of shooting for the President.

Following the “Daang Matuwid” agenda of President Noynoy Aquino since his campaign days, I decided to be a part of his team. I officially became one of Pnoy’s close-in photographers from the start of his administration, on June 30, 2010, his inauguration day.

EYES ON THE PRESIDENT (Photos by Gil Nartea)

After working for the downfall of Marcos as a youth organizer, propagandist, cultural worker, union organizer, and eventually as a photojournalist in the 1980s, and after joining street calls for the resignation of Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Erap Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—here I am now helping build a pedestal for a President by trying to produce positive, beautiful images of him.

It may seem like a complete reversal of role, but I must admit that I believe in Pnoy’s administration.

The road to “Daang Matuwid” is exactly the same path that I’ve been dreaming of since my student days in the streets. I actively fought for a fair and just society, where every child can have access to education and health, where food is available on every Filipino family’s table.

The President is the most sought-after personality in the land.

Every second of Pnoy’s life is newsworthy.

Gil Nartea, the President's photographer

Gil Nartea on field assignment as a photojournalist

As a close-in photographer, we need to be literally close to him. That is his order. He once reminded us what close-in meant: to be physically with him wherever he goes,

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at least most of the time.

The Pnoy administration will be my last “work” as a photojournalist. By the time he ends his term in 2016, I will be 62, not 64, as The Beatles would suggest.

I am not entertaining ideas of moving to another place of work, or another person to be the subject of my photographic coverage. I am determined to finish the term of Pnoy.

I plan, and would make it happen, to come up with a coffee table book on my journey with Pnoy. As a photographer, a book of images is our legacy for generations to come.

It’s been a year now with PNoy.

I have five more years to try to reconcile the principle behind my photographic coverage of the last 25 years—that “the best in photojournalism is the worst in a human situation”— with the good and the beautiful pictures I now choose to capture.

It is the selection of the images of my boss, the “decisive moments” in his life, that I consider most relevant before I click the shutter.

(Editor’s note: We thank veteran photographer Gil Nartea—fondly called Tata Gil by Palace denizens, including President Aquino—for obliging us with his photos and text. Gil started his photojournalism career in 1983, after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. He has worked for various newspapers such as the defunct Manila Chronicle, Sun Star Manila, and ABS-CBN’s magazines. From 1994 to last year, he taught photojournalism at the University of the Philippines.)

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  1. It’s just a shame that as an instructor at UP CMC, he actually never bothered to teach as earnestly as he should have; instead, he delved into his dreams of making a coffee table book about then-sound “presidentiable” Mar Roxas.

    My class with him was a disappointed. We could have learned more, but we didn’t.

  2. Boy Cabrido says:

    Nice work Gil, I’m glad you did this photo presentation on your 1st year with Pinoy, as we have discussed at PPing, do more of this shot, a different perspective of Pinoy from the eyes of a humble Tata Gil, my friend…..boycab

  3. Ares Gutierrez says:

    isa kang alamat, Tata Gil

  4. Joe Galvez says:

    Tata Hell, wait ka namin sa Oarhouse! Isa ka ng alamat ng pangongodak!

  5. Thanks for the real life lessons on the field Tata Gil!
    Our classes were always bitin. Balik ka na sa peyups.

  6. Mabuhay ka Tata Gil!

  7. danny pata says:

    Saludo kami sa iyo Tata Gil Mabuhay ka!

  8. “the best in photojournalism is the worst in a human situation”—

    very apt… after all someone said that “civilization is a catalogue of human vanity and evil”

  9. Johnny Lin says:

    There is nothing wrong about dreaming for the future especially pertaining to personal creativity or artfistic accomplishment. But, are not all photos taken on the president by an official presidential photographer deemed properties of the republic until the term ends when the photographer is given official permission what or which photos for him to keep for personal use or commercial purpose? Official photographer is a government salaried item thus all expenses could be claimed against the presidential press office budget including the use of facilities for photo processing. Is there a conflict of business interest by this early declaration of commercialism unless the purpose of a coffee table book photojournalism is for free distibution? Writing a memoir is different because this is considered intellectual property. Printed forms using government subsidies are no considered personal properties, the same way stocks issued to directors of government corporations are treated. Is the intention and use of government properties for
    future personal gain ” daan matuwid”? Just asking for legal clarification!

  10. Johnny Lin says:

    There is nothing wrong about dreaming for the future especially pertaining to personal creativity or artfistic accomplishment. But, are not all photos taken on the president by an official presidential photographer deemed properties of the republic until the term ends when the photographer is given official permission what or which photos for him to keep for personal use or commercial purpose? Official photographer is a government salaried item thus all expenses could be claimed against the presidential press office budget including the use of facilities for photo processing. Is there a conflict of business interest by this early declaration of commercialism unless the purpose of a coffee table book photojournalism is for free distibution? Writing a memoir is different because this is considered intellectual property. Printed forms using government subsidies are considered personal properties, the same way stocks issued to directors of government corporations are treated. Is the intention and use of government properties for future personal gain ” daan matuwid”? Just asking for legal clarification!

  11. Johnny Lin says:

    Correctin: Printed forms using government subsidies are NOT considered personal properties

  12. tata gil says:

    so sorry isko,
    we had several meetings/lectures, but i do know that my dream of that coffee table book was mentioned just one of our meetings. I’ve handled that photojourn course in UP for 15 years trying to transfer to you young students what photojournalism is.

    so sorry if I disappointed you, but you should have voiced it out in one of our meetings.

    maraming salamat sa pagpuna!

  13. Ryan Hernandez says:

    Mabuhay Ka Tata Gil … para sa akin ay isa ka sa mga haligi ng Photojournalism sa ating bansa especially sa iyong pagtuturo sa UP … sayang kung nasa UP ako nag aaral back in college then malamang nag enroll din ako sa class mo … patuloy ka sana magtagumpay sa lahat ng iyong proyekto sa iyong professional life !!!

  14. Ryan Hernandez says:

    I love to consider that the Intelectual Property Law is actually protecting the works of professionals like photographers and not the company or organization that they serve at the time of such works … especially now more than ever everything is in digital … I guess a photographer will always have perpetual rights to his works even though he does not own the equipment he is using … so any photographer like Tata Gil can go about using his pics for his personal projects.

  15. Chris G. says:

    Just make the book. Its you right to publish your intellectual property.

  16. Romy Santos says:

    You have raised an important issue.I await the opinion of IP lawyers on the subject of copyright (in this case, Nartea’s plan or dream of coming out with a coffetable book, after serving PNoy–when he ends his term) and intellectual property rights. I’m sure even artists in other fields would be interested to know. The implications are wide-ranging. It may even shed light on the exploitation of the work of photographers by big media organizations and multinational image companies like AP, AFP, and Reuters.

  17. tata gil says:

    yes romy,ryan and chris, I’m doing the book . . .and let’s fight for our rights!

  18. Tata Gil, nice insights from one who have made a great leap from covering the NPA’s in the hinterlands, to walking with the president in the corridors of power in Malacanang. I cant wait for Pnoy to step down in 2016 so that I can finally see your dream book. With the way the Malacanang Media Bureau keep barring photojournalists from covering most events in the palace declaring them ‘not for media coverage’ and then releasing photos by ‘close-in’ photographers of these events, you are really helping build a pedestal for Pnoy. Trying to produce positive, beautiful images of him, im sorry to say is not photojournalism. Its PR

  19. Johnny Lin says:

    The issue is not only about intellectual or property rights but also about conflict of interest. Use of public funds for personal gain in my opinion is illegal. Its different from a private photographer using his own personal funds for commercial ventures. The premise of the article started with daan matuwid, bakit naging daan baluktot. Nasaan ang delicadeza binintang sa administrasyun ni GMA? People shout corruption when government employees use government vehicles and gas for private trips. Petty theft or grand scale robbery are the same, both are criminal acts. Konting lagay sa pagkuhang mabilisan ng driver license at Bolante fertilizer scam pareho din, CORRUPTION!

  20. jim guiao punzalan says:

    Mabuhay tata Gil!

  21. Johnny Lin says:

    In the US, every photograph or video taken by official presidential photographers is officially approved and released by the Press office of the president. Upon released to different media outlets these photos become public property not subject to copyright infringement because they are public properties from goverment funds. All unreleased photos are subject to approval for distribution or publication including personal request. Photos of the President taken by private media outlets are their properties. Only those photos deemed suited for public consumption are released by the White House. Did we ever wonder why there was no official photo released when Cong. Pacquiao paid a courtesy call to President Obama? Ask Manny if he received an official picture since he made a personal request to secure one. Even if he obtained a copy for his personal use he could still be restricted or subjected to sanction by US government if he releases the photo publicly without official permission from the White House. One reason being given is Internal Security.

  22. Johnny Lin says:

    Clarification to avoid confusion. “Photos of the president taken by private media outlets or individuals are properties of the media organizations or photographers subject to copyright even when released publicly. The White House has no control over these private properties.

  23. tata gil says:

    “I have five more years to try to reconcile the principle behind my photographic coverage of the last 25 years—that “the best in photojournalism is the worst in a human situation”— with the good and the beautiful pictures I now choose to capture.”- 2nd to the last paragraph of the text, hehe.

    but isn’t it “…selecting the worst in human situation” also a choice (aka PR)? depending on what story you want to tell? The ethical standard for the selection of our images for publication is “did it happen?”.

    In a span of 2-hour presscon, for example, a 1 second moment when the subject is in bad situation is most likely our choice of image for publication, as compared to the good situations of our subject that we took in the remaining 1 hour, 59 minutes and 59 seconds .

    Bad or beautiful images that we took for publication is photojournalism. . .as long as IT IS THE TRUTH! let the viewer decide, anyway our name in printed below our photos (byline), they will know who is to be crucified!

  24. tata gil says:

    hi ryan,
    maganda issue nilabas ni ernie sa thread na to, basahin mo

  25. As a ‘close-in’ photographer of the President, your job description is always to present the positive, the good, and the beautiful (sounds Imeldific) aspect of your subject.
    You are not allowed to show a photo of the president smoking (did it happen?) or show a photo of him crashing a Porsche (did it happen?), scenes which we in the mainstream media are dreaming to photograph.
    I wish, these unguarded moments of the President, whether good or bad are in your book. Good luck.

  26. gil nartea says:

    maraming salamat boss ernie

  27. Tata Gil, I could have voiced my sentiment if you were inside the classroom, not with Mar Roxas, for the majority of the sem.

  28. Johnny Lin says:

    All the impacts of success, beauty, surrealism, silhouettes and unguarded moments of a beloved personality become immaterial if the means employed to produce and deliver included deceptions, abuse of authority and fraudulent means. Vanilla Ice, Madoff! Wonder if this coffee table photojournalism plan was part of the resume submitted to the vetting committee when PNoy assumed oftice since it was already a full blown idea when Mar Roxas was contemplating a run for the presidency?

  29. Johnny Lin says:

    Nagtuturo wala sa classroom. Paano Siya nagsuweldo, sumingil ba siya kahit hindi dumating sa classroom? Kung ganun di na katakataka na ang paggamit ng funds ng gobyerno para sa personal na hangarin. Kung me bahid ng korapsyon, di na pala kailangan lumayo ang hanap ni NoyNoy sino ang umaabuso sa administrasyun niya.Smile lang siya kaharap na niya.Na reveal itong Personal conflict of interest ng isang public employee sa Newsbreak. dapat Newsbreak kondena ang ganitong gawain ng empleyado ni PNoy kung malinis na jornalismo ang hangarin kagaya ng sinulat ni Chay Hofilena, truthful and no deceptions at all ang sinumpa ng isang journalist. Kapag pinabayaan ng Newsbreak ito at hindi pinaimbestigahan publicly sa PNoy government, complicit ang editors ng Newsbreak sa revelation ng conflict of interest with corrupt ideas throughout the terms of PNoy. Kahit folders lamang na pagaari ng gobyerno at ginamit sa personal na negosyo, corruption yon. Malalaman natin ngayun kung tunay ang adhikain ng Newsbreak na tutol kahit anong klase ng corruption.

  30. Tata Gil, just continue with the book, IP or no IP. It will be a much awaited one not only for us in the photojournalism profession but I believe, for most Filipinos. Mas maganda kung yung mga private, intimate moments nya, away from the prying eyes of the press (although I know yun talaga ang mga kinukunan mo na :-) Parang ganito http://kennerly.com/contact-extraordinarycircumstances.php

  31. Isabel Rivera says:

    Johnny Lin,

    Get a life!

  32. Johnny Lin says:

    Isabel
    This is life! Seeking the truth, expose hypocrites. I was a Newsbreak reader stumbling this essay about conflict of interest exploiting Daan Matuwid! I did not force the author to pen it. Silence of author and Newsbreak is deafening. Right is right, wrong is wrong. Sara Duterte punched a sheriff, uncalled for, whatever her compassionate reasons were. Her father flashed a dirty finger to critics.Tolerance is the opium of Filipino culture. Are you also addicted to it?

  33. mayamaya says:

    dear johnny lin,
    your definition of commercialism is just plain dumb. wala na bang halaga ang documentation sa yo? e bat ka nagbabasa ng newsbreak o ng dyaryo or any other news site? kumikita din sila dito, huy. pag gumawa ng libro si tata gil tungkol kay mar o kay noynoy, money-hungry na siya??? may informative at documentation value ang mga libro, di lang pera ang produkto nun. maybe you should pick up one, maybe then you’d gain a little bit more perspective on tata gil’s case. and goddamit, photographing the president and having a vision of telling a story in mind is not petty theft! how skewed are your views!

  34. Luis Liwanag says:

    What’s wrong..are you working for a PR firm set loose to wreak havoc early mr. Lin? Leave GIl Alone..He had his share of Nationalism and struggles…let him be. We all have our internal battles to fight. Get a life free from ANgst.

  35. Johnny lin says:

    Tolerance is the opium of Filipino culture. Mayamaya, Ang pinaguusapan conflict of interest habang empleyado sa gobyerno. Sino ang sumulat ng article? Sino ang nagsabi ng daan matuwid ang sinusunod kay PNoy? Kapag ginamit ang facilities at supplies ng gobyerno sa paggawa ng libro, corruption yun. Dap at Ang gawin ni Nartea magresign at humanap ng private sponsor at gamitin sa layunin niya private funds. Ano ang basehan niya ngayun alin ang ilalabas niyang picture na ibibigay sa media at itatago niya na maganda para sa libro niya. Kapag tinago ang isa para malagay sa photo album niya at yun ay galing sa film at processing na pagaari ng gobyerno petty theft yun. Lahat ng gagawin niya ngayun “suspect” na personal interest niya. Ganyan Lang kasimpe!

  36. Johnny lin says:

    Luis Liwanag

    Having a share of struggles and nationalism does not carry license to commit felony and corrupt ideas. I commented based on what was written and planned. Nartea should have thought this over before publishing this essay. Undoubtedly, his friends prodded him or praised him that it was a good idea without thinking his salaried government position. I am a freelancer looking at both sides, giving credit to whom it is due and criticizing a friend or ally when necessary. That is Daan Matuwid!

  37. Gil Nartea and people like him (yes I’m looking at you luis, joe, ryan, & all photog posters above) INSPIRE.

    Imagine, a whole lifetime dedicated to photojourn and nationalism. Looking at his portfolio, there’s no mistaking the significance of his works, politically, socially and culturally.

    I see his decision to be Pnoy’s photog a great risk, because on the surface it goes opposite what he has stood for. But seeing how he made that decision bec. it aligns with his hope for a better life for the people – it just shows how he remains true to his humble, principled self.

    Mabuhay Tata Gil! Pnoy is lucky to have a dedicated, honest & astig photog like you!

  38. BTW, Johnny Lin has waaay too much free time – maybe that’s why he calls himself a “freelancer.” For those who will disagree with his far-out opinions, expect a very prompt & looong defense from good ol’ Johnny. Sige na nga Kuya Johnny, maraming, maraming salamat sa lahat ng tulong mo para sa bayan. Dahil sa pag-post mo ng walang sawa sa lahat ng madaaan mong website (matuwid ba?haha), uunlad na ang Pilipinas! (Uuuy, magre-reply na ‘yan. Wait lang, maglaba ka muna. Or maligo. Alis ka muna.)

  39. Johnny lin says:

    Ana
    I did not say I did not admire the sacrifices or works of Nartea. He probably deserved every ounce of his struggles but the conflict of personal interest in his current salaried government position is questionable to the quest of his dreams. Surprising, nobody, including the author, profoundly argues the merits of my comments but instead of debating, the messenger is being shot. Ana I will heed your advice, sleep, while you hum Eric Clapton’s “I shot the sheriff”. Btw, I don’t do laundry even when I was living abroad. He he he!

  40. Johnny lin says:

    Ana
    I did not say I did not admire the sacrifices or works of Nartea. He probably deserved every ounce of reward for his struggles but the conflict of personal interest in his current salaried government position is questionable to the quest of his dreams. Surprising, nobody, including the author, profoundly argues the merits of my comments but instead of debating, the messenger is being shot. Ana I will heed your advice, sleep, while you hum Eric Clapton’s “I shot the sheriff”. Btw, I don’t do laundry even when I was living abroad. He he he!

  41. Jun Sipat says:

    Mabuhay ka! Ibigay ang hilig ni Tata Gil! Kanya-kanyang isip ng raket, walang bad-tripan! =)

  42. Johnny Lin says:

    Magagalit na naman si Ana, sumagot na naman ako. Ana nagising kasi ako, sobra na sa tulog. Tama, kanya kanyang raket sa gobyerno. Kunwari me integrity pero kapag nagkarun na ng pagkakataon nakapasok sa kusina, raid na rin ang refrigerator kahit hindi gutom. Sayang ang dating marangal na prinsipyo?

  43. so kung gumamit siya ng ibang camera para ishoot yung photo book nya, hindi na petty theft yun? you have dumbed down this debate to mere semantics/ mechanics. if let’s say, tata gil publishes this book under let’s say the ncca or deped and is released as an educational or cultural book, where he won’t get so much as an honorarium only the distinction of having published a book, will you be appeased then? ang problema mo lang ba ay dahil posibleng “kumita” si tata gil dito? that’s just dumb.

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